Snack bars come in all sizes, flavors and promises. Some promise balanced nutrition, but are really just empty calories. Others promise high protein content, but come with a heavy price tag of (too much) sugar. That said, we went on a mission to find the most nutritious snack bars. We put six of the most popular granola and protein bars to a challenge: Which bar delivers in both taste and nutrition?
In order to give the snack bars a fair chance, we divided the competition into two rounds.
Round 1: Snack Bar with the Most Protein
From left to right: Clif Builder’s Chocolate Protein Bar, Larabar Chocolate Chip Brownie, Clif Bar Regular Chocolate Brownie
Objective: Identify the bar with highest protein content and least amount of sugar.
These three competitors represent chewy chocolate bars that all have different amounts of protein. Taste-testers were told to pick the best-tasting bar of the group, in addition to identifying the one they thought had the highest protein content.
Round 2: The Most Nutritious Snack Bar
From left to right: Kind Cranberry Almond Bar, Odwalla Protein Bar, ThinkThin Crunch Mixed Nuts Bar.
Objective: Best all-around snack bar based on fat, protein and sugar content.
These three competitors represent fruit and nut granola bars that promise a balanced, nutritious snack. Taste-testers were told to choose the best-tasting bar, in addition to identifying which bar they thought was the healthiest.
Snack Bar Blind-Taste Test
Snack Bar Winners
Round 1: Clif Builder’s Chocolate Bar
Clif Builder’s Bar packs 20 grams of protein, the most of all three bars, while containing the least amount of sugar of the trio, with 20 grams. Clif Bar Regular contains only 9 grams of protein, while packing 23 grams of sugar. Larabar also contains 23 grams of sugar and had the least amount of protein in the group, with only 4 grams.
Surprisingly, many of the taste-testers thought that Clif Bar Regular had the most protein. They remarked that it had a chalky texture, similar to other high-protein bars. Larabar tasted the most natural, likely because its main ingredient is dates.
Due to their high sugar content, all of these bars should only be consumed by folks who are physically active.
Round 2: ThinkThin Crunch Mixed Nuts Bar
The ThinkThin bar is the only bar in the second round of competition that has more protein than sugar. It packs 8 grams of protein and has only 6 grams of sugar per bar. KindBar also received high marks in taste, but contains half as much protein as ThinkThin (4 grams) and almost twice as much sugar (11 grams). Both ThinkThin and Kind Bar contain 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Odwalla received the lowest marks in taste in the entire round. Although it contains the most protein (14 grams), it also has the most sugar (17 grams).
Sugar is the most common additive used to improve taste in granola bars. Most of these are simple sugars, which can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels. If you’re eating them during a window of physical inactivity (e.g., sitting in class or at the office), the extra energy goes unused and can be stored as fat.
ThinkThin Crunch Mixed Nuts Bar offers a perfect balance of taste and nutrition. It contains the least amount of sugar of all the bars we tested (6 grams), while providing a good source of protein (8 grams).
Our granola bar rule of thumb: Choose a bar that has more protein than sugar. In addition, stick to fruit and nut flavors, as chocolate and yogurt varieties tend to contain more saturated fat.
Until the next blind-taste test, snack wiser.
Bobby is the community and social media manager at Zipongo. He has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and previously worked as a health educator.